Monday, January 21, 2008

Poker Cheating / My First Casino Cheating Novel!

In some communities, the authorities will not only not tolerate poker cheating, they won't even tolerate illegal non-cheating poker! In San Mateo, California, a suburb of San Francisco, the cops actually conducted an undercover investigation to bust up what wasn't anything more than a friendly home poker game. Some people, including myself, might think that this was a bit over the top.


SAN MATEO — A raid on a poker operation in the San Mateo Highlands has the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office battling accusations that it overplayed its hand.

Participants in the game argue it was a friendly, low-stakes affair — not the den of iniquity portrayed by authorities. After a three-month undercover investigation, 15 officers from the Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Justice poured into the house Saturday afternoon with guns drawn.

They arrested organizer Bert Cardenas on charges of fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and participant Trish McCoy on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The minor was McCoy's 13-year-old son, who allegedly participated in some of the games.

The raid shocked some participants, who argued it was overkill for a social game with buy-ins of $25 to $55. News has since spread to Web sites such as and Boing Boing, where it has sparked criticism and discussion about the laws surrounding home poker games.

Police and neighbors, however, say the operation was getting out of hand and needed to be shut down.

A Sheriff's Office news release following the arrests charged that Cardenas organized the poker games "to fraudulently obtain money from the unwitting participants." While private poker games are legal, the organizer is not allowed to collect any money from the participants.

Cardenas allegedly collected $5 from every participant for "refreshments,"
and he took extra money from buy-ins for a "freeroll" tournament that police believe paid out less than Cardenas took in.

Philip Travisano, a San Mateo graphic designer who regularly played in the games but wasn't there Saturday, said he's not surprised to hear of the raid. "I'm not clear on all the laws, but it was my impression that to take a rake or a fee to play a home game was illegal."

Travisano took issue, however, with police's description of the participants as "unwitting." He noted that the games were advertised openly on and drew a diverse crowd of professionals from around the area.

"As far as Bert, I know he was doing it for the love of poker, not making profit on this," Travisano said. "There was no cheating, no shills, nothing fraudulent going on."

Teresa Benitez, a Stanford master's-degree student who played Sunday, agreed. "Definitely, nobody felt like they were being cheated. We're hoping this all gets sorted out so we can start again."

Alcantara contends the bust was carried out professionally, and was fully justified based on information obtained by undercover officers who infiltrated the game. He believes the players were being scammed, whether they knew it or not.

Alcantara also objected to misinformation posted on some of the message boards about the raid.

He said the Sheriff's Office investigators didn't set out to break up a home poker game. They were just responding to neighbors' complaints of noise and other quality-of-life issues associated with the games, which often drew 20 to 30 people to the quiet, hilly neighborhood west of San Mateo.

Cary Weist, president of the local neighborhood association, said the problem has grown over time. "People want to come home and see it as their sanctuary, and all of a sudden there's anywhere from 20 to 40 cars in a one-block area — and they stay 'til the wee hours of the morning."

Residents also have noticed a jump in burglaries since the games began, Weist added.

When police found out the issues stemmed from a gambling operation, Alcantara said, they were obliged to look into it, along with state gambling control officials. Seeing adults gambling against a minor was the clincher, he said.

"If the adults are not going to look out for the welfare of this kid, we have to act."

Alcantara debunked rumors that any child was taken into protective custody by police. A minor on scene during the raid — not the one who had previously gambled in the games — was referred to relatives because a parent was arrested.


After writing five books about casino cheating, poker cheating and identity theft, I have decided to plunge into the world of fiction. Naturally my first novel will have a Las Vegas backdrop, and of course there is some hefty casino cheating in it. It is called "DEADLY DEALER." The synopses follows. What I am proposing to you is that with my blog entry each day, I include 5 pages of the book (more or less depending on feedback). But I don't want to do this unless there is interest in my readership. So please, IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MY NOVEL TO START, PLEASE E-MAIL ME AND TELL ME! I will only do this if there are a sufficient number of people who wish to read it. And then I will continue posting pages if the readership continues.


In “Deadly Dealer,” LANCE MITCHELL, an ex-con who’d served four years in Texas for manslaughter that was really self-defense, is now a Las Vegas blackjack dealer in the palatial Poseidon Casino. Nine years earlier he had stolen $500 in chips from his blackjack table at the downtown Fremont Casino, where he first dealt the game. He’d done that only once in a desperate situation to make ends meet. Since then he has married, had two children, gotten his life together and become an upstanding citizen of Las Vegas. But then he is blackmailed by Poseidon casino owner ART RUSK into cheating the high rollers gambling at his blackjack table. RUSK’s giant casino has been hit with an unbelievable streak of bad luck and is facing ruin, and this is RUSK’s last desperate act to save it. LANCE must obey because RUSK has threatened to expose LANCE’s long-ago crime at the Fremont and have his gaming license revoked, and worse, sent back to prison. He is shown a surveillance videotape of his taking the chips. Even though LANCE complies, he keeps his predicament hidden from his loving and supportive wife, LINDA, and their children.

RUSK uses his two most trusted and crooked casino employees, casino manager JACK SARGE and security chief ED WHITTEN, to teach LANCE the dirty tricks of the trade, mainly using marked cards that can only be seen with special contact lenses worn by the dealer. LANCE is told to deal “seconds” to cheat the unsuspecting high rollers. As the tremendous dirty-money-making scam moves along, LANCE believes that he is the only Poseidon casino dealer forced to deal seconds and that his terrible secret will remain protected. But then he is assaulted on his table by HATASHI HIROSHI, one of the three HIROSHI BROTHERS, a Japanese syndicate of multi-million-dollar gamblers who have lost their entire fortune at LANCE’s crooked table and then commit suicide in their Poseidon hotel suites because they have lost face back in Japan. LANCE knows he is largely responsible for their deaths and finds it increasingly difficult to continue on with the scam, but the vise he’s squeezed in is inescapable. If he stops participating in the scam, RUSK and his powerful partners will have him returned to prison. They constantly threaten him with the incriminating videotapes.

LANCE, overwhelmed by the pressure, tells his closest friend SCOTT, another Poseidon casino dealer, how RUSK and his associates have forced him to cheat the HIROSHIS. LANCE had been warned and threatened repeatedly by WHITTEN to keep his mouth shut and the scam secret. He soon realizes that he should have heeded that advice when SCOTT disappears, presumably killed by the wicked trio running the casino. At the same time, LANCE is now dogged by two Las Vegas police detectives who also know he’s an ex-con. They tell him that they suspect the HIROSHIS were victimized at his blackjack table and that RUSK was behind it. They threaten him with prison if he’s covering up for the Poseidon. LANCE resists out of fear for his family, but after constant badgering finally admits the scam to the cops, thinking they will save him from RUSK and that he won’t be charged in any crimes related to the scam or the HIROSHIS’ deaths. But it turns out that these cops are corrupt and on RUSK’s payroll. Their pursuit of LANCE was just a game engineered by RUSK to see if he could withstand the pressure and keep his mouth shut. LANCE now finds himself threatened again and feeling more hopeless than ever. Next he is accosted by Gaming Control Board agents who tell him that they are suspicious of the HIROSHIS’ losses and think RUSK is using him in a scam, just like the cops said. LANCE, desperately wanting to come clean, can’t because he suspects that the Gaming agents are also working for the omnipotent Rusk. If he opens his mouth again, he may end up buried in the desert. Finally, terrified beyond his worse nightmares, LANCE tells his wife, LINDA, what has happened.

After a terrible time of indecision, together they hatch a plot to not only free LANCE of his predicament but also to turn the tables on RUSK. First LANCE hires a private investigator to enter the casino and secretly film him cheating RUSK’s surviving high rollers. LANCE later sends the videotapes along with a microcassette recording of RUSK’s and his men’s voices to the authorities. But in the meantime they recruit LINDA’s best friend JACKIE, a cocktail waitress with a larcenous heart; her husband MARCO, an ex-Vegas cop with the helicopter unit; and PAUL (JACKIE’s brother), a computer whiz familiar with identity theft scams, to join their plot. PAUL creates new identities for himself and JACKIE as MR. STEVEN TAYLOR and his wife SHERRY, a wealthy New York couple with money to burn gambling at the Poseidon. RUSK, thinking he’s stumbled on a bonanza with this legitimate high-rolling couple, directs them to LANCE’s crooked blackjack table to be cheated. But instead of cheating the TAYLORS, LANCE turns the tables and deals them winner after winner. They end up bilking millions from the casino as RUSK, SARGE and WHITTEN watch hopelessly with livid disbelief.

After the rip-off, LANCE, JACKIE and PAUL must all escape RUSK and his evil men. JACKIE and PAUL simply walk out of the Poseidon casino with the money, protected by the gaming authorities who’ve supervised their massive cash-out and their own private security force. LANCE, however, must make a run for it on his own once he leaves the blackjack table. He sprints across the casino and is chased on foot along the crowded Las Vegas Strip by WHITTEN and his security goons. LANCE, his life in danger, jumps into a cab. WHITTEN, in hot pursuit, jumps into another cab behind him. The race is on to Red Rock Canyon in the desert, where MARCO is waiting with an escape helicopter they’ve hired with the help of MARCO’s retired police buddy. LANCE eventually makes it to the chopper after a thrilling car chase and MARCO flies them across the desert to California, where LINDA and their children have been waiting.

In the coming days as LANCE and his family begin setting up a new life in Carmel By the Sea, the incriminating evidence they had sent to the authorities causes RUSK, WHITTEN and SARGE to be indicted on numerous felony charges as well as the closure of the Poseidon.